Monday, 7 July 2008

Intellectual vs Physical Property

I bought the much-vaunted new CD, Floating Point, by guitar hero John McLaughlin,so an instant revue - it's crap. Self-indulgent tuneless meanderings, with hyperactive percussion, and at all costs make your guitar sound like an electric piano or an alto sax or, well, anything but a guitar - doesn't he understand that if I want to hear Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter, I'll buy their records; what we want from guitarists is blasting unmistakeable guitar! Listen to your 1970s Mahavishvu stuff, John.

Anyway, end of rant. What triggered this post was a note on the (almost illegible) sleeve notes: 'This CD is the property of Mediastarz, Monaco and protected under International Copyright Laws'

No, sorry guys, this CD is the property of me. I gave HMV £12.99 for it - that gives me total rights and control over this chunk of variegated plastic. I think this also gives me the right to use it as I choose - scare birds, park my G&T on it, etc etc. Even listen to the music it contains ...

Which raises the real issue. If, as the undisputed owner of this object, I choose to allow other people to hear its content (not that I would, I like my friends), does this constitute breach of copyright? It's got to be 'no', hasn't it? I mean, someone happens to walk through the door while it's playing? I know that the rules have been written to allow for this kind of 'private' use of copyright material - but what if that person happens to walk through a virtual door 500 or 5,000 miles away, and happens to be accessing my iPhone (onto which I misguidedly downloaded this CD) at the time, and therefore happens to end up listening to whatever I am ...?

I've no idea whether that scenario is yet technologically possible (though if it isn't, it probably will be in about 45 minutes time); the point is that the idea that you can distinguish between 'intellectual property' and physical possession of the medium containing it is antiquated and doomed to destruction.

So, Mediastarz, come and collect your property, if you can find it, and if you dare.

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